By Danielle Douglas (2006)
“Our nation is heading in the wrong direction and we need fighters to turn it around,” says Chris Owens. “The same people who were on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in 1965, when the Voting Rights Acts was passed, are still at the bottom in 2006. I have the knowledge, experience and
temperament to represent the 11th Congressional District effectively.”
Knowledge. Owens definitely has a healthy grasp of local and national issues, such as education, employment, homeland security and election reform. Temperament. The rather affable candidate was more than willing to give of his time to talk to OTP. Experience. Well,.this may be Owens’ Achilles, heel. Granted, Major Owens’ son has been twice elected to the community school board and served as a special assistant to the city council president, he lacks the legislative experience of his opponents. But Owens contends, “Whoever wins this contest will start as afreshman in the House, at the bottom or near bottom of a 435-member hierarchy. One’s prior history as an elected official will neither help nor hurt you as a new member of Congress.” He continues, “If anything, starting without baggage from previous political lives is a good way to keep an open mind.”
On the other hand, Owens has an advantage over the average freshman rep, a father who has held a seat in the House for more than 20 years. Unlike his opponents, if Owens is elected he will saunter into the Capitol with an established network of his father’s comrades and counsel. The contender, who has worked as his father’s campaign manager for the last 12 years, says he has a clear understanding of the conviction and temperament needed to be in Congress. Proud of his father’s legacy, Owens believes the Major’s time in Congress will help his bid.
But the Brooklyn native is not relying on his name to get him to Washington. A visit to Owens’ Web site makes it clear that he has put great thought into his campaign vision. He is the only candidate who takes a stance on almost every local and national issue, though he doesn’t quite present a substantive solution or strategy for them all.
Owens is particularly outspoken about education and labor. In regards to labor, the self-proclaimed progressive calls for the protection of organized labor, pensions and workers’ rights. Owens, who presently has two children in public school, is against vouchers and supports the equitable distribution of education funds. The candidate is probably best known for his push to impeach the president for unlawfully leading the country into war. If elected, Owens says he will take up the issue in Congress. “If the issue is in anyway viable and certainly if the Democrats take the House back, I will push it to whatever committee I can. I’ll certainly be a voice for it within the Congressional Black Caucus as well,” proclaims Owens.
To date, Owens has raised approximately $200,000; his list of contributors primarily consists of educators and retirees. Owens is seemingly not under the thumb of any major corporate interests, which may attract the racially mixed group of progressives and reformists. Nevertheless, he has not faired well in any of the recent polls, coming in fourth behind Carl Andrews in 1199’s last survey.
Some say that his name recognition is hurting the candidate, as there are many constituents in the 11th who were not pleased with the performance of his father. Some have even said that Owens should be one of the Black contenders to exit the race in order to prevent a possible Yassky upset. But Owens is not budging. “There are 239,000 registered Democrats in the 11th District and out of that number the majority of voters are Black. If we all vote, then we can determine our own destiny. If we choose not to, then we are essentially allowing our destiny to be determined by others,” he says. “We [the Black candidates] represent different things.
The words alone are not the answer; it’s your leadership style. Carl Andrews has an insider leadership style; he is not an outspoken leader. Yvette has repackaged herself as a progressive when she’s basically been quiet on national issues.”